What went down in Singapore.
The GE Women’s Run is an annual race up to half marathon distance that caters to the fairer sex in the little red dot known as Singapore. When Shinta invited me to come run and stay with her I thought it was a great opportunity for me to finally experience what running was like in the Lion City. It turned out to be one of the best race experiences I ever had!
1) The idea to join GEWR was actually mooted by Shinta when she came down to SCKLM in September. They had a sweet deal for the 21.1km category in that you get a discount if you signed up with a buddy. We totally jumped on it because, you know… we love girly deals like that.
2) I was a bit tickled by Shinta’s reason to ask me to run with her: all her other friends were running the 10k “only” and Shinta was already bored of the 10k routes in Singapore, which are more or less the same in most major events!
3) The race was to take place on Sunday, 10th November. On Thursday however, I developed a case of the sniffles and a looming fever. Concerned, I informed Shinta about it as I knew she had young children. She texts me back saying both her daughters were also sick! Well, at least I didn’t have to worry about passing on my running nose to the little ones.
4) I landed in Singapore from KL on Friday night, ready to just sleep in the entire Saturday morning in my desperate attempt to get well before race day. I swallowed my prescribed pills like an addict and hydrated like a drunkard. My host family prepared a wonderful breakfast of chicken porridge and delicious condiments the next morning so that really hit the spot, thanks Shinta.
5) I was almost contemplating of a DNS (did-not-start) on Sunday if I did not get better, but my ego was too inflated to let such a thing happened. I persevered to get well.
6) On Saturday afternoon we visited Changi City Point Mall for some shopping but I didn’t find anything interesting, save for a new dark blue Brooks visor (you know, with the “run happy” embroidery) to add to my collection. We were there to pick up a gift for Shinta’s friend’s child’s birthday party.
7) At the birthday party, which was held at a condo somewhere, I met a couple of women who were also running GEWR13, including Thalia who had been on my FB friends’ list for some time, so the party was an opportune time for us to finally meet. Thalia was a very animated person and funny, to say the least.
8) As I sat and watched the children swim in the swimming pool, I helped myself to a small bag of potato chips, in my efforts to increase my salt intake a little bit pre-race day. Say what you will – I didn’t cramp at all on Sunday!
9) I didn’t sleep till about midnight. We were planning to wake up at 3:30a.m. so not only was I sick, I was going to be also sleep-deprived on race day. Recipe for disaster? Maybe. Miraculously, my body held up.
10) Shinta drove us to the starting point, which was at Marina Bay area near the Singapore Flyer ferris wheel. The winds were picking up and Shinta kept saying rain was coming. She was right. When we started running it began to drizzle!
11) We began the race at 5:30am along with 3,000 other women who signed up for the 21k (the remaining 11,000 did the 5k and 10k). Never mind the drizzle, I actually wanted to run with one of the official female pacers that the organizers had tied balloons to! I tried in vain to look out for the 2:30 finishing pacer, but because we started at the back of the pack 3 minutes after gun time, I never saw sight of them.
12) It was nice that the race had official pacers, even for the 10k event. The 21k pacers were set in timings of 2:10, 2:20 and 2:30. For 10k, they had 1 hour, 1:10 and 1:20. Realistic women-friendly beginner and intermediate paces.
13) Before we ran, the emcee at the start line issued a caution: “Ladies, if you see men running on the course, alert the marshals!” Or something to that effect. So basically, no men were allowed to run on the course. I did see a few later on, one was actually pacing his girlfriend (hey, no fair!).
14) In the first kilometer as we were heading out to Nicoll Highway we ran past the F1 pit stops. Shinta and I didn’t really discuss our race strategy so I tried to keep up with her. As we entered the 2nd kilometer I realized that she was going much faster than my planned place so I stopped trying to keep up and let her go.
15) It was starting to rain heavier, and I was a bit worried as I was still sick and was potentially going to be sniffling even harder through all that rain, but it wasn’t so bad really. It was in fact welcoming to run in the cooler climate. After about 4km the rain subdued as we carried on.
16) One of the obvious things that stood out to me during GEWR was how serious the organizers regarded the runners’ safety on the road. High plastic barriers were put in place on most major roads to cordon cars from the runners – and because they were quite heavy (maybe filled with water?), any vehicle impact would be absorbed first by them.
17) Because I had a time target and I did not bring a pace band, I decided to use the most reasonable pace I could multiply in my head throughout the race: 7:00min/km. So if I reached 8 km within 56 minutes that meant I was on track. If I kept up with this pace, I could finish my 21km in 2hours 28 mins, 2 minutes below my target of 2:30.
18) I planned to have my energy gels at km8 and km15 of the race. The organizers offered complimentary gels to runners too, but I brought my own, just in case. I was very pleased when I saw that they were also giving out the same brand that I take, MaxiFuel Viper! It’s easier to swallow as the consistency is like water, not the icky sticky kind that most major brands make. Every time I gulped down my stash, I took one from the table (which was miraculously unmanned – usually gels are carefully rationed to each runner by volunteers) to restock and carried on.
19) At km14 as we ran along the body of water that is Kallang Basin, an American lady stood on the sidewalk and tirelessly chanted motivational phrases to us, almost like an animated mannequin in a theme park diorama. She also had a sign that said “Strong is beautiful”, which she propped further ahead of the route. I don’t know why but every time you pass a cheerleader like that, you always find yourself moving along faster and stronger. So thank you, stranger.
20) It was approaching km15 and I knew I had to buck up if I wanted to meet my target. So I ran stronger, feeling good that I was going to meet my time. As I clicked off km17 and crossed the Marina Barrage, I caught up with Shinta! No way, I thought to myself in disbelief. She acknowledged me and honestly, I was glad to finally see a friend. We both started running together again.
21) Then as we were running past Marina Bay Sands at km19, something took over me, like a possession. I started running faster than I had ever in the entire race so far. It was like I had a shot of renewed energy pumped back into my legs. I overtook my friend and had only one thing on my mind: the finish line!
22) I looked back to see if Shinta was keeping up with me, just to make sure she was because I really wanted to finish together, but because of my sudden sprint I had already lost her. I was shocked at myself too, but then I thought, if my body’s asking me to floor it, well heck I am going to FLOOR IT!
23) As I reached the finish line I could not believe how deserted it was – usually finish lines are congested with runners finishing but not in this race, it was gloriously empty because the 5k and 10k finished at a different point! Feeling like an Olympian I ran through the timing mat with my arms raised and shared the finishing moment with a Filipina runner!
24) I immediately stopped my Garmin watched and saw these wonderful figures: 2:26:35! I couldn’t believe it, I was below my target of 2:30 by not only 4 freakin’ minutes, but I had also just beaten my previous personal record half marathon time in Sydney (where I finished 2:29:49 with a pacer in much cooler weather!). I was elated beyond words! After sharing the update on Facebook, I received a steady of flow of ‘likes’, amounting to more than 100+! I guess friends and family love PRs too – thank you all! My official time was later published at 2:26:30.
25) Shinta was not far off, a minute later she too ran through the finish line. I paused to snap a photo of her with my phone, and then our arms locked in a brief congratulatory embrace. Well done, babe!
26) The weather was still gloomy and drizzling when we were done but it could’ve hailed and stormed and I couldn’t have cared; I was having a terrific day! I could no longer tell if I was wet from rain or sweat.
27) As we made our way to pick up our finisher’s t-shirt (which was a very handsome blue-red of a thing I must add), we passed by tents where the special “Powder rooms” were setup for the ladies to refresh and change, complete with lit-up actor dressing room mirrors and everything. My word, this was truly an event for the girls!
28) Because Shinta and I got XL for our finisher’s t-shirt (there was no other size option during sign-up), we had to sweet talk one of the volunteer girls into giving us the S size instead. Our efforts were in vain at first because we were not alone in our predicament, many other women were also in the same boat, exasperated that they had t-shirts too big for them. I told the volunteer since I was an out-of-towner it was going to be hard for me to drop by their office for a new size later in the week. So after much persuasion, she agreed to exchange but only if we came back in an hour. So we got our sizes. Moral of the story, speak respectfully to the volunteers, it’s not their fault sometimes that these things happen. Speaking to people in a condescending tone is not necessary, as I observed some women did.
29) And race organizers, take note: most Asian/petite long distance runners, especially women, are not likely to wear sizes bigger than M, so you may want to have more t-shirts in XS, S and M.
30) There were so many booths for free food, offering everything from ice cream to muffins and Nandos chicken. But I didn’t even bother. As we were seeking shelter from the rain under the Marina Seating Gallery, I recognized a familiar face, nibbling hungrily on her Nandos chicken. It was Maggie!
31) This powerhouse of a lady finished her half marathon in respectable sub-2 timing of course! I was so happy to see a fellow countrywoman, we hugged and I excitedly told her of my achievement that day, for which she was happy. Amazingly, she had already taken a shower and changed into dry clothes by this time, wet shampooed hair and all! She then lamented to me that the race had since stopped recognizing podium placements for the Masters Category, which I presume is the Veteran Women’s category. Which is a shame really, Maggie’s fantastic and would’ve clinched a position with her eyes closed and legs tied.
32) I was also introduced to Shinta’s Urban Mama friends who all ran the 10k that morning. They were such a hilarious bunch and I had a ton of fun speaking with them. Yana in particular had this peculiar pole in her hand, which I later found out was a camera monopod, a device that allowed you to take ‘selfie’ photos with your phone from a distance!
33) The Indonesians called the device a tongsis. It’s short for tongkat narsis! (ak.a. “the narcissistic pole”) We sure took a lot of nice selfies that day.
34) Dessy was another amusing lady whom I got to know that day – she started asking me if I knew how to dress up for a run in winter temperatures! Well, apart from my experience of running in Sydney in May, I didn’t know what else to tell her. So I promised Dessy I’d share some links I had read on FB about how to dress up for such a condition, once I got back to KL (and they are here and here). Apparently she’s doing a half marathon in New York in December. Fun!
35) There was another group of women runners whom I regrettably did not have time to meet; Arlyn and Santhi who are stay-at-home Singapore running moms who are very dedicated in encouraging their newbie friends to take up running. They all ran the 5k. Congratulations to all of you! I hope to see you one day, next time.
36) I don’t know if this makes any sense to any of you – but I find that running in an all-women’s race event actually made me feel more… relaxed? Hence this feeling of relaxation may have contributed to my better race performance? I know it sounds ludicrous but observe. One, I didn’t have to worry about accidentally bumping certain body parts into male runners. And secondly, ladies are quite courteous when they do bump into you. I can’t tell you how many ‘sorry’s and ‘excuse me’s I heard while on the race course.
37) After the fun catch-up at GEWR, Shinta and I went out for breakfast to celebrate our finishing and then we went home, and I got ready to leave the island. All in all it was a memorable race and a whirlwind weekend with many sweet memories. I definitely want to run GEWR again – there were so many awesome things about it and a lot of personal potential to be realized and lived! Thank you, Singapore!